CHECKLISTS

Timothy and Titus – Inconspicuous Leadership

1 Timothy 5 checklistI am a list maker…even in retirement from my secular work. For me, what doesn’t get listed, doesn’t get done. It is also very rewarding for me to check that item off the list when it is accomplished. The list has a progression of priorities. One task cannot happen until another task is completed. And so life goes with my lists guiding my behavior and productivity.

As I journal each morning in my conversational prayer with God, the Father, His Spirit guides me to make another list that helps me to mature and grow in Him. I am convicted of some of those “fruits of the Spirit” that I have not tended to or cultivated, have ignored or left undone. His Holy Spirit redirects my thoughts and helps me form a list of tasks that will help me improve my behavior. “Keep a close check on yourself”, writes Paul to Timothy. For me, that means to make a spiritual checklist that keeps me in close contact with the will and purpose of our Father, God and helps me to grow closer to Him.

We can do nothing of significance without God. I am convinced that He guides us to all things that are good for our growth and aid our learning about Him and how He works. Paul also gives Timothy sound advice about how to treat those whom God has called to lead with character traits with another list of how to lead. This list still applies to us today. The theme of this episode seems to be; Know God, Know Yourself, Know The Message, Know Your Audience. Our deeds, good and bad, will be evident. Be driven by God’s love in us.

1 Timothy 5, The Message

17-18 Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching. Scripture tells us, “Don’t muzzle a working ox” and “A worker deserves his pay.”

19 Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.

20 If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.

21-23 God and Jesus and angels all back me up in these instructions. Carry them out without favoritism, without taking sides. Don’t appoint people to church leadership positions too hastily. If a person is involved in some serious sins, you don’t want to become an unwitting accomplice. In any event, keep a close check on yourself. And don’t worry too much about what the critics will say. Go ahead and drink a little wine, for instance; it’s good for your digestion, good medicine for what ails you.

24-25 The sins of some people are blatant and march them right into court. The sins of others don’t show up until much later. The same with good deeds. Some you see right off, but none are hidden forever.

1 Timothy 5 check yourselfLEADERSHIP PRINCIPLE #6: Keep a Close Check on Yourself

Leadership Characteristics –

–Fully rely on God. Trust Him with all you are and all you have. We are His. All we have is His.
–Ask God “if there is anything offensive to you, cleanse me.” as the Psalmist prayed.
–Repent with a heart and mind not wanting to return to the old life.
–Look full into the face of Jesus, our Master, Lord and Savior with laser focus so we know what direction to take next.
–“Keep a close check on yourself.” Avoid, “he did it, I can, too” or “my sin is not as bad as his sin” or “everybody’s doing it” mentality.
–Ask God for wisdom, insight and understanding.
–Allow God’s transformation to continue in our lives.
–Ask God to make your lists of to BE and to DO. HE will prioritize your lists in ways you cannot imagine! Where He guides, He provides help all along the journey.
–Do all in a Spirit of love for God and others.
–Care enough to confront others with God’s love and concern for their spiritual well-being and growth.

Warning   The things on our spiritual check list can never be crossed off because we’ll be working on them our whole lives. By listing we are reminding ourselves of what we need to work on to “keep a close check” on our lives. It is only by The Atonement of Jesus Christ can we accomplish anything of eternal significance.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You have convinced me that we must do spiritual “business” with You each day to improve our being in You. Thank you for helping us on this journey. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit that points out things in our behavior that could cause us to crash…before crashing. Thank you for always being with us, guiding and directing, loving and protecting and challenging us to grow and bear Fruit. Continue to transform me. Transform your church. Transform the world through your church.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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NEWSFLASH:  NO GOOD REASON TO HATE

Did the title get to you?  Do you believe that the nature of those who hate God, the “God-less”, are haters?  The ruler of this godless world is Satan, the fallen angel, who was kicked out of heaven because he wanted to be God.  Satan has been seeking revenge ever since that time.  Evil lurks in believing homes, in the workplace and even in our church buildings where we gather to worship God!  Satan consistently plants thoughts in our heads to confuse us about God so we will seem foolish to follow Him.  He is a Tempter but with limited power.  He is a Liar who wants to lead us to death.  But in the end, who is the foolish one?  The fallen angel or Jesus Christ, Son of God?  The one who leads us to death or the One and Only who leads us to life eternal.  We choose.

Jesus warns his disciples of this worldly hate that is so strong against Him that it will lead to beatings and torture, ending in death on a cross.  He prepares them for the harsh reality that will certainly come to those who love Jesus and love like Jesus.  “If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you.”  However, hate does not win in the end.  Jesus conquers death, rises again from death and reminds us God is in control at all times.  Love trumps hate.  Love wins every time.

Even though Jesus spent his earthly ministry life showing compassion, unconditional love, forgiveness, extreme healing beyond what the world had to offer, the godless world only saw hate and were driven by hate.

We might pause to ask ourselves, what drives us in our relationships, workplace, families, all of life?  Hate or Love.  Do we compartmentalize our love, as most the world does?  Do we sing of love on Sundays but hate on Mondays and the rest of the week because of annoying people who get in our way, have attitudes that don’t fit ours or think differently than we do?  Are we Godless in our thinking and behaving?  How firm to we stand with Jesus?

Is it too hard to be hated for following Jesus that we’d rather hide our belief to avoid the repercussions?  Jesus has something to say about that, too.  “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  (Luke 9:26) 

“Hate me, hate my Father—it’s all the same.”  Okay, so that’s pretty clear, right?

Of the godless Jesus relates, “But they saw the God-signs and hated anyway, both me and my Father. Interesting—they have verified the truth of their own Scriptures where it is written, ‘They hated me for no good reason.’”—Jesus

There is no good reason to hate when the Love of Jesus wins every time.  Love God.  Love Others like He loves us.  Love your enemies, teaches Jesus, and pray that they see God and believe in His love before it is too late.  That’s the love Jesus is teaching.  Don’t be hating like the godless world hates.  There’s just no good reason for it.

John—God’s Love

John 15:18-27, The Message

Hated by the World

18-19 “If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.

20 “When that happens, remember this: Servants don’t get better treatment than their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you. If they did what I told them, they will do what you tell them.

21-25 “They are going to do all these things to you because of the way they treated me, because they don’t know the One who sent me. If I hadn’t come and told them all this in plain language, it wouldn’t be so bad. As it is, they have no excuse. Hate me, hate my Father—it’s all the same. If I hadn’t done what I have done among them, works no one has ever done, they wouldn’t be to blame. But they saw the God-signs and hated anyway, both me and my Father. Interesting—they have verified the truth of their own Scriptures where it is written, ‘They hated me for no good reason.’

26-27 “When the Friend I plan to send you from the Father comes—the Spirit of Truth issuing from the Father—he will confirm everything about me. You, too, from your side must give your confirming evidence, since you are in this with me from the start.”

Lord,

Thank you for your unending, relentless, unconditional love!  Thank you for saving us.  Thank you for teaching us about hate before we have to deal with it in life. Thank you for Your Holy Spirit of Truth that confirms everything you have said on earth to fulfill all of Scripture.  Thank you for loving me.  Help me to love like you love even though it is harder than hating.  I do not want to hate—it hurts my heart.  Help me to deal with the haters of who I am in You.  I know you will, you always have.  Thank you, Lord.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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SEPARATED—I JUST CAN’T

My granddaughter has a saying she uses often when something she doesn’t believe should happen or she refuses to accept.  “I just can’t…”  There are no words after this phrase.  It is not really a full sentence in my teacher mind, but it expresses exactly what she means by the way she says it with a shake of her head and the roll of her eyes.  Communication is clear.  “I just can’t”.  I thought of this as I read our next passage.  You will see why when we you read it prayerfully and carefully.

Jesus gives his disciples another word picture of the importance of being with Him, relying and trusting in His wisdom while living life completely “attached” to Him for the greatest impact on the world with His message of salvation.  “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.”

Imagine Jesus and his guys walking through the vineyard, with Him showing how the branches are attached to the main vine in a gardening lesson from One who was at the Creation of those vines!  He finishes the lesson by getting the “root” of it all.    “Remember the root command: Love one another.” 

When I am unattached from The Vine, going my own way, leaning on my own pea brain wisdom, insight and understanding,

“I just can’t” …

  • Experience His peace in troubles
  • Have complete and mature Joy in all circumstance
  • Make myself at home in His love
  • Love like Jesus loves me
  • Produce fruit that lasts forever… “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22) 
  • Live forever with Jesus
  • Ask the Father for help
  • Be Friends with Jesus, Kind of kings, Lord of lords, Savior and Lord of my life.

“Separated, you can’t produce a thing.” –Jesus

John—God’s Love

John 15:1-17, The Message

The Vine and the Branches

1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

9-10 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

11-15 “I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

16 “You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

17 “But remember the root command: Love one another.

Lord,

I remember.  You chose me.  You loved me before I knew you.  I became attached to your love, mercy and grace.  I just can’t unattached myself to all you have to offer to me.  I just can’t.  My life is yours.  All of my life is yours.  Thank you for giving your life to save mine.  Thank you for wanting to be my friend as well as my Savior and Lord.  Produce in me all your characteristics.  Forgive me when I falter and fear because of my own unsteadiness.  Be my strength, confidence and my song all day long.  Show me your ways and I will follow.  I just can’t do life any other way.  With you, I can!

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen.  I believe.

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IF YOU LOVE ME…

TRUTH BOMB:  Loving is knowing, knowing is showing. 

“If you really loved me, you wouldn’t have done this!” How many times did our parents pull this out their repertory of reprimands when we did something that was not acceptable?  Unfortunately, they were only thinking how the unacceptable act was a reflection on them and of their parenting skills so as a quick response they went for the juggler with these words to us as children.

When Jesus says, “If you love me, it’s all about His love in us, guiding us, filling us with all of Him!  Jesus is different with his “if you love me” because instead of condemnation, He is teaching us all about God’s love with His best life plan for us.  Jesus says to know love is to know God who is love.  God is always thinking of His created who He knows by name.  We have a hard time truly understanding the depth of this kind of love God has for us.  God’s love builds and shapes us to be all He created us to be.  God’s love forgives quickly.  God is limitless and unconditional in His love.  God’s love is pure, perfect and simple—and He wants us to unreservedly love Him back.

God is a jealous God, not because of His power, not because He wants to control us like puppets, and not for sport of playing games with our lives for the fun of it.  God is jealous of the evil one who tries to distract us from all HE knows is good and right from Him. His jealous is about what we miss when we miss Him!  God really loves you.  God truly and forever loves me.  He loves the world He created. 

God wants us to love Him back because we decide to, not because we are forced.  When we love Him back, God opens up the heavens with a bounty of blessings He pours over us.  These blessings include teaching us to show His kind of love to the world by developing the fruits of His Holy Spirit so that we will live the abundant life with Him and with others.  One of the first fruits mentioned in the list is love—followed by joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  (See Galatians 5).

Yes, if we unreservedly love God, says Jesus, our lives show it. 

Loving is knowing, knowing is showing. 

John, who was there listening and learning, narrates the Master Teacher’s last in-class session with his students before being arrested and taken away from them.  Because of the love of God in Jesus, Jesus unconditionally loves his disciples who have dedicated their lives to following him.  Read and understand the love that oozes with every word…

John—God’s Love

John 14:15-31, The Message

The Spirit of Truth

15-17 “If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth. The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn’t have eyes to see him, doesn’t know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!

18-20 “I will not leave you orphaned. I’m coming back. In just a little while the world will no longer see me, but you’re going to see me because I am alive and you’re about to come alive. At that moment you will know absolutely that I’m in my Father, and you’re in me, and I’m in you.

21 “The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself plain to him.”

22 Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?”

23-24 “Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him—we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.

25-27 “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.

28 “You’ve heard me tell you, ‘I’m going away, and I’m coming back.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.

29-31 “I’ve told you this ahead of time, before it happens, so that when it does happen, the confirmation will deepen your belief in me. I’ll not be talking with you much more like this because the chief of this godless world is about to attack. But don’t worry—he has nothing on me, no claim on me. But so the world might know how thoroughly I love the Father, I am carrying out my Father’s instructions right down to the last detail.

“Get up. Let’s go. It’s time to leave here.”

REFLECT ON THE JESUS’ PROMISES…

I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth.”

“You know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you!”

“I will not leave you orphaned.”

“I’m coming back.”

“The person who knows my commandments and keeps them, that’s who loves me. And the person who loves me will be loved by my Father…”

“The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you.”

“I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”

“If you loved me, you would be glad that I’m on my way to the Father because the Father is the goal and purpose of my life.”

“…the chief of this godless world is about to attack. But don’t worry—he has nothing on me, no claim on me.”  (And not on us who believe!)

“If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you.”

The last words of the love lesson are awesome and tells us that Jesus is ready to fulfill his mission.  “Get up, let’s go”.  I love that!  After prayer each morning I can hear Him say to me, “Let’s do this”, can you?  Can I get an amen?

Lord,

I love You.  I love how Your word speaks to us, builds us up, readies us for another day with knowing we are loved so well.  May your love in us be shown to others in ways you have preordained for this day.  Thank you, Lord.  Continue to transform my life with your love in me.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen.  I believe.  It’s settled.

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LAST WORDS

If you knew exactly the time you will die, leaving your beloved family behind, what would you say?  What would you leave unsaid?  Will your extreme love for them guide your words and actions?  Will your words be about funeral arrangements or about your love for them.  Will the words be of better days ahead in heaven or about how to carry on the business of what you are leaving behind?  It all depends on Who you follow on The Road to Truth and Life forever.  It depends on Who guides your life now.

Jesus has a few hours before he will be taken from his beloved followers.  His last words are words we still cherish as believing followers now.  Think about these “last words” and hold them dear to our hearts today.

Jesus said (and says because He is alive now and coming back);

“Trust Me.”

“I’m getting a room ready for you.”

“I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life.”  (“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” as we memorized in translations we read as youth.)

“No one gets to the Father apart from me.”

“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.”

“Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me.”

“From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.”

In these last words, we understand that Jesus is with us in all we are invited to be and do in His work to help others find, know, believe, and follow Jesus, too.  Trust Him. 

John—God’s Love

John 14:1-14, The Message

The Road

1-4 “Don’t let this rattle you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

6-7 Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

9-10 “You’ve been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, ‘Where is the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.

11-14 “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.

Lord,

I needed these exact words today.  Your promises to your disciples hold true for us in challenging times in life on earth.  YOU ARE the Way, (the Road) to Truth and Life!  You are with us every moment of every day.  I will trust you.  All day long, I will trust you.  Lead me on the right Road and I will follow.

In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen.  I believe.

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UNTIL THEN…”LOVE LIKE I LOVE”

There is no greater love than knowing the love God has for us.  But do we really understand the depth of His love?  Do we have the desire to go deeper in realizing this love He has for us?  What kind of love is this who sacrificially lays down his life for us so that we do not receive the punishment for our sins that we well deserve?  What kind of love bends down to wash dirty feet that have walked miles in sandals? 

John, Jesus beloved disciple and witness, gives us glimpses of God’s love demonstrated so eloquently and unreservedly in His Son, Jesus.  In this passage alone, we see Jesus put aside his robe of authority at the Passover meal, take on the role of a servant, bend down with apron, bowl and basin to wash the feet of his disciples—even the one He knew had betrayed Him.  The only human act of love who comes close to this kind of love is Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet with precious oils and dried his feet with her hair. 

Jesus then prepares his disciples once more for his departure but not with delivery once simple message—LOVE like I love you.  In a few hours, Jesus will be taken away, falsely accused, beaten, stripped of all dignity and then nailed to a cross to pay the debt of the sins of the world God loves.  Jesus will be lifted up in humility for all to see.  Passersby will mock him.  Followers will weep, thinking life is over.  But death cannot hold Him for He is the Son of God sent to save us!  God’s glory will be seen as Jesus rises from death on the third day—all because of this love we are trying to wrap our small minds around.  This is what Jesus means when he foretells of God’s glory—glory all around!”

Jesus’ parting words to his beloved is this: “Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

Friends, this kind of love is active in serving, goes deep in believing, is willing to trade our old lives for new lives of living under the authority of Jesus.  This kind of love loves and cherishes everyone in the world no matter who they are or what they have done.  We have learned from John that Jesus’ kind of love is humble, kind, gentle, patient, and forgiving.  Paul describes the character of the love of Jesus in this way, “…the fruit of the Spirit (the Holy Spirit who lives in all who believe) is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:25) 

So, until Jesus comes back again, we are commanded to:  Love God.  Love Others.  This is the new commandment Jesus gave his disciples (and us) to live out loud so we will be recognizable to each other.  Peter is stuck on physically wanting to follow Jesus wherever He goes, but Jesus comes back to remind him of his humanness.  More on that story later.

Until then—Love like Jesus.

John—God’s Love

John 13:31-38, The Message

A New Command

31-32 When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around!

33 “Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’

34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

36 Simon Peter asked, “Master, just where are you going?”

Jesus answered, “You can’t now follow me where I’m going. You will follow later.”

37 “Master,” said Peter, “why can’t I follow now? I’ll lay down my life for you!”

38 “Really? You’ll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you’ll deny me three times.”

Lord,

We sometimes get stuck on our own humanness while waiting on your return.  We long to be with you, but we also know there are souls who need your saving grace.  How will they know unless we love like you love?  Help us to go deeper in your understanding the depths of your love for us so we can go deeper in our love for each other.  Help me to love today in your ways of loving so others will know without doubt that I am loved by you and they are, too!  Lord, may all I do be led by you and your love.  Nothing else really matters but your love in me. 

In Jesus Name, for Your Glory, Amen.

I’m reminded of the chorus of a beautiful hymn, “Until Then”

But until then my heart will go on singing,
Until then with joy I’ll carry on,
Until the day my eyes behold the city,
Until the day God calls me home.

Loving like Jesus is freeing, brings joy into our lives, lifts our spirit and puts smiles on our faces.  Until then—Love like Jesus. 

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THE PAIN OF BETRAYAL

We are human.  We have been betrayed by other humans led by self.  We have betrayed people with actions that have hurt others.  Some of those actions could have been unintentional on our part, but it still hurts.  Sometimes we betray those who betray us because in our human minds this kind of betrayal to get back at the one who betray us is justified.  This is what the world thinks.  We are not of this world if we believe in Jesus and walk in His ways.

Jesus shows us, as the Son of Man and of God, that indeed, betrayal is painful.  Jesus was “visibly upset” while talking about the one who betrayed him.  This man, Judas, a beloved disciple, sat at the last meal Jesus would share with his disciples. Imagine the small, jingling bag of coins in his pocket given for “selling Jesus out” to those who were plotting to kill Him. 

What does Jesus do at the meal knowing his betrayer?  Jesus shows the full extent of His love by serving His betrayer. The betrayer’s feet were washed by Jesus, Son of God.  Can we camp on this thought alone right now?!  We wonder how Judas is keeping his emotions in check that night.  Don’t you wonder?  But we see, that Jesus does not hold his emotions to himself.  The others know he is in pain because of the betrayal.

When we betray each other do we break the heart of God?  (Yes!)  What we do to each other we do to God.  Jesus taught us this truth.  See Matthew 25.

“What you must do,” said Jesus, “do. Do it and get it over with.” 

Judas, with the piece of bread, left.

John—God’s Love

John 13:18-30, The Message

The One Who Ate Bread at My Table

18-20 “I’m not including all of you in this. I know precisely whom I’ve selected, so as not to interfere with the fulfillment of this Scripture:

The one who ate bread at my table

Will stab me in the back.

“I’m telling you all this ahead of time so that when it happens you will believe that I am who I say I am. Make sure you get this right: Receiving someone I send is the same as receiving me, just as receiving me is the same as receiving the One who sent me.”

21 After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. “One of you is going to betray me.”

22-25 The disciples looked around at one another, wondering who on earth he was talking about. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. Peter motioned to him to ask who Jesus might be talking about. So, being the closest, he said, “Master, who?”

26-27 Jesus said, “The one to whom I give this crust of bread after I’ve dipped it.” Then he dipped the crust and gave it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him.

“What you must do,” said Jesus, “do. Do it and get it over with.”

28-29 No one around the supper table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas was their treasurer, Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the Feast, or that he should give something to the poor.

30 Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night.

WHAT DO WE LEARN?

Betrayal to God and to each other breaks the heart of God.

Lord,

We betray you when we are only self-motivated for self-survival in this world who would betray us in a heartbeat.  You do not and cannot betray us.  Betrayal is not in your nature or character.  Lord, we repent of those times we have fallen to betrayal as a last resort to cover up our tracks of sin.  Cleanse us.  Set us free of this sin that can maim our walk and can destroy the lives of others trying to walk with you.  May truth, Your Truth always rise to surface.  We know, without a doubt, you have already won over the enemy.  May we live victorious in you, leaving all acts of betrayal behind.  Betrayal just does not fit in a life that is fully devoted to you—heart, mind and soul.  Continue to grow us, Lord.  We’re not there, yet.  And you know this.

In Jesus Name, By Your Power in us, For Your Glory, Amen.  

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IN HIS GRIP

Did you ever wonder who has a grip on you?  Do we stop to think about who we think about most and want to please?  Do we think what grip our work has on us?  Do we wonder if the grip of our family and friends is so tight, we can’t move forward—grow up and mature?  Does the grip of our old destructive habits keep us from grabbing hold to a new life without those hinderances? 

Does the grip of self, wanting our own way, in our own time, so fierce that it is strangling at times?  Is the grip of desire to please others we feel are more important than we are so demanding that it overwhelms to the point of pleasing no one?  Who has a hold on me? I ask myself this question often. We must ponder this for it is a matter of loving or hating, serving or demanding—of life or death. 

Who has a grip on me?  Right now, at this moment, we ask ourselves.  

Pause to allow the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts.

The following passage in Jesus’ journey to fulfill his mission from God culminates with the ultimate expression of the love of God.  Jesus washes his disciples’ feet to show the “full extent of his love” as some translations say.  He shows his beloved followers one more final act of loving service to them before going to the cross to pay the debt of their sins, our sins, all the sins of the world. 

Judas’s feet were washed right along with the other dirty feet.  Jesus loves the sinner.  Jesus knew Judas’ heart and knew Judas was in Satan’s grip.  Judas had previously betrayed Jesus and “sold him out” to the priests for a small bag of coins—yet Jesus still washed his feet.  What kind of love is this?  God’s love that has no bounds, limitless, reckless, and unconditional.  Judas lost his grip on his Savior, Teacher and Master and allowed the grip of Satan to take hold of him.

John—God’s Love

John 13:1-17, The Message

Washing His Disciples’ Feet

1-2 Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. The Devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal.

3-6 Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, “Master, you wash my feet?”

Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.”

Peter persisted, “You’re not going to wash my feet—ever!”

Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.”

“Master!” said Peter. “Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!”

10-12 Jesus said, “If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene. So now you’re clean. But not every one of you.” (He knew who was betraying him. That’s why he said, “Not every one of you.”) After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.

12-17 Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.

THINK ABOUT IT…

Jesus lays down his robe of distinction signifying who He is as head of the Table for Passover and puts on the apron of a servant.  We are reminded of what he told his disciples many times, “I came to serve, not to be served.” (Mark 10:45) Jesus served because of the grip God had on Him.  He only thought, said and did what His Father told him.  They were one in mission, service, love, mercy and grace.  Now he will SHOW them what that means by his actions. 

I love the phrase by Peterson’s paraphrase, “My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene.”  We do a lot in this world to look good, when God is concerned with what is good and holy on the inside.

Jesus bends down to wash the feet of his betrayer.  Who does that?  Jesus, the One and Only who died for our sins.  When God has a grip on us, we take actions that are “not of this world” as we live in hope for the eternal world with Him.   

When Jesus finished the last pair of feet, he simply put back on his robe and continued the meal.  It was easy for Jesus to go from leading to serving and back to leading.  Wow.  Ponder that thought.  Servant leading is the Jesus way of life that He shows by this example.

“What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.” –Jesus

Lord and Savior,

We are your servants but we also serve the world that you created.  I want to be in the solid grip of all you have to offer.  Don’t let me go and I won’t let go of my grip on you!  Not letting go of your grip is your promise to us.  So, there is no reason for me to let go of you!  Thank you for this supreme example of loving service.  Help me to wash feet, even those feet who are deemed not worthy by the world, for we are all not worthy.  Thank you for paying the debt of my sins and all the sins of the world.  Thank you for loving me the way you do–so unconditionally.  Yes, help me to love like that always.  We humbled by this act of service, the full extent of who you are.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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LOSING EYESIGHT

As we age, there is nothing more alarming than slowing losing our eyesight. For some of us, it began in our youth. Losing eyesight begins with our eyes not adjusting as quickly when coming into a dark room from the light.  It progresses to losing sight of the details.  Leaves on trees become green blobs unless we come really close to see individual leaves attached to the branches.

So, we go the eye doctor who prescribes lens with correction so we can see more clearly what we have been missing in our slow decline.  I will never forget what my oldest daughter said as a teenager when she put on her first pair of glasses for the trip home.  As we drove, she was amazed.  “I never knew that building had individual bricks.  I see the lines, now!”  “And look at the trees!”  She was so excited and amazed to SEE all the details she had been missing in life.

Because in most cases losing eyesight is a slow decline, we sometimes just accept it while modifying and adapting our lifestyles to it—until we can no longer see at all!  Then it might be too late for correction!  We do this spiritually, too, says Jesus. 

Here’s how the Son of God explains it…

John—God’s Love

John 12:36-50, The Message

Their Eyes Are Blinded

36-40 Jesus said all this, and then went into hiding. All these God-signs he had given them and they still didn’t get it, still wouldn’t trust him. This proved that the prophet Isaiah was right:

God, who believed what we preached?
Who recognized God’s arm, outstretched and ready to act?

First, they wouldn’t believe, then they couldn’t—again, just as Isaiah said:

Their eyes are blinded,
    their hearts are hardened,
So that they wouldn’t see with their eyes
    and perceive with their hearts,
And turn to me, God,
    so I could heal them.

41 Isaiah said these things after he got a glimpse of God’s overflowing glory that would pour through the Messiah.

42-43 On the other hand, a considerable number from the ranks of the leaders did believe. But because of the Pharisees, they didn’t come out in the open with it. They were afraid of getting kicked out of the meeting place. When push came to shove they cared more for human approval than for God’s glory.

44-46 Jesus summed it all up when he cried out, “Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.

47-50 “If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him. I didn’t come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I’m saying, is willfully choosing rejection. The Word, the Word-made-flesh that I have spoken and that I am, that Word and no other is the last word. I’m not making any of this up on my own. The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it. And I know exactly what his command produces: real and eternal life. That’s all I have to say. What the Father told me, I tell you.”

WHAT LEADS TO SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS?

–Caring more for human approval than for God’s glory.

–Adjusting to the world’s ways, avoiding correction from God.

–Going blind to the details of what God wants for us—His best life for us.

–Unbelief in God

–Refusing to see Truth

–Refusing to see God at work—”Who recognized God’s arm, outstretched and ready to act?”

–Refusing to see to understand

–Rejecting God of our own free will not wanting His will to be done in our lives.

The diagnosis and cure for spiritual blindness

“Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.”—Jesus, The Great Physician

Hallelujah, praise God for healing us from spiritual blindness!!  Believe.  Come into the Light and get a good look at the Savior who loves us more than we can imagine!  When we do, our blinded eyes receive sight once more and we are no longer stumbling around in the dark!

Lord,

I was blind but now I see!  Thank you for saving my soul, healing my spiritual blindness, correcting and overriding my will to see your will which is best for my life.  You are God.  Jesus, you are Healer.  Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do to mold and shape me to be who you created me to be.  May all I do today be done in your Name for your glory.  Lead me, Lord.  Open my eyes, Lord and help me to see your Truth always.

In Jesus Name, Amen

Casting Crowns has a beautiful song that describes the healing of spiritual blindness called Blinded Eyes…Here are the lyrics:

You say I’m lame for calling on a man that I have never seen
You say I’m crazy for listening for a voice that I have never heard
You say that I am so naive to think that He could love me
but I have joy and I have peace
that will never ever leave me

Is it because you’ve never seen
Is it because you’ve never heard
that you’re comfortable in darkness
in a lost and dying world
He’ll be standing all around you
with His arms held open wide
and you’re straining just to see Him
through blinded eyes

Open your eyes the place where you are standing now is holy ground
God shined His light straight into you heart now look what you’ve found
Is that right what you call righteousness
All dressed up in Sunday best
They’re draped across the stage
Only Jesus never walked away

Open your heart, He’ll open your eyes
show you the hope you have inside
call on the Name of Christ
and He will save you
and give you wings to fly!

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RECKLESS IN LOVE AND SERVING

I am fortunate.  I have had a couple of generations before me to show me what reckless love and serving looks like in every day life.  My “testimony” to the rest of the world would be boring.  When I became a believer at an early age, I internalized what I saw in my grandparents and parents.  God first, love others and help as needed.  We spent a lot of time at church or in the neighborhoods telling others about Jesus.  We were not perfect and we knew we were not perfect.  We did not live perfect lives, immune from sinful pride, selfishness, envy, working for the wrong motives, but we knew who to go to for perfect, complete forgiveness.  God’s Holy Spirit in us guided, corrected, and led us to the path God wanted.  It was up to us to do what He said.  We were taught in order to live life for Christ, we had to lay down our lives and let go of what we wanted in order to take up living the great life, eternal life God wanted for us.  See, I told my testimony was boring, but not without flaws! 

As I grew in the faith, I met many more people in my work as a teacher.  I realized many people in our world did not have the luxury of loving mentors and models.  In fact, they had just the opposite.  Many children watched as dads left moms, moms ran back home to momma, uncles who were abusive, sisters and brothers fight for the affection of their parents, kids who have kids who have kids with knowing how to raise kids.  To me, this was living a reckless life.  What could I do about it?

Jesus!  I learned I could  tell them what Jesus did for us, not with words, but with the reckless, unconditional love of Christ while serving the world.  Demanding gets us nowhere.  I think this is what Jesus is talking about in our next passage.  I had to let go of what I wanted to say and do and listen to what God wanted.  I had to learn to love recklessly, unconditionally, serving with mercy and grace right where people are while praying for God’s best to arise in them like He did for me. Jesus saves.  We merely join Him in His work to help people find and follow Him by showing the reckless, serving love of Christ.  We are still not perfect, only Jesus is perfect.  That’s why we cannot be the sacrifice for others, only Jesus can.  But we can tell them the Truth of who Jesus is and what He did for each of us.

Live for Christ!  FOLLOW ME, says Jesus.  This is how…

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.” –Jesus

I turn to Warren Wiersbe, Commentator to explain these words for us;

“Jesus used the image of a seed to illustrate the great spiritual truth that there can be no glory without suffering, no fruitful life without death, no victory without surrender. Of itself, a seed is weak and useless, but when it is planted, it “dies” and becomes fruitful. There is both beauty and bounty when a seed “dies” and fulfills its purpose. If a seed could talk, it would no doubt complain about being put into the cold, dark earth. But the only way it can achieve its goal is by being planted. God’s children are like seeds. They are small and insignificant, but they have life in them, God’s life. However, that life can never be fulfilled unless we yield ourselves to God and permit Him to “plant us.” We must die to self so that we may live unto God (Rom. 6; Gal. 2:20). The only way to have a fruitful life is to follow Jesus Christ in death, burial, and resurrection.”  (Wierbe)

This “death” to self comes from our repentance to Christ of our sins. We “bury” the old life and are resurrected to a new life with Christ.  Our baptism signifies this perfectly! God leads us then to His best, abundant, eternal life, a life full of His reckless love that leads to a heart with a growing desire to serve in ways that help people to find and follow Jesus, too.  Reproduction infinitely and exponentially multiplied!  To God be the glory! 

John—God’s Love

John 12:20-36, The Message

A Grain of Wheat Must Die

20-21 There were some Greeks in town who had come up to worship at the Feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee: “Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?”

22-23 Philip went and told Andrew. Andrew and Philip together told Jesus. Jesus answered, “Time’s up. The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

24-25 “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. The Father will honor and reward anyone who serves me.

27-28 “Right now I am shaken. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this’? No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put your glory on display.’”

A voice came out of the sky: “I have glorified it, and I’ll glorify it again.”

29 The listening crowd said, “Thunder!”

Others said, “An angel spoke to him!”

30-33 Jesus said, “The voice didn’t come for me but for you. At this moment the world is in crisis. Now Satan, the ruler of this world, will be thrown out. And I, as I am lifted up from the earth, will attract everyone to me and gather them around me.” He put it this way to show how he was going to be put to death.

34 Voices from the crowd answered, “We heard from God’s Law that the Messiah lasts forever. How can it be necessary, as you put it, that the Son of Man ‘be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35-36 Jesus said, “For a brief time still, the light is among you. Walk by the light you have so darkness doesn’t destroy you. If you walk in darkness, you don’t know where you’re going. As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shining through your lives. You’ll be children of light.”

Lord,

I want to walk in the Light of your reckless, limitless love.  May your Light in me be seen by others searching for love, real love.  Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Lead us not into temptations but deliver us from evil and evil’s schemes to bring us down and hinder our growth.  I know you will.  I trust you.  I love you with all my heart, mind and soul.  Show me your ways and I will walk in them.  Thank you for your loving patience with me.  I know there is still a lot of work in me to be done by you.  I’m willing.  I’m yours.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe.

Playing the background…Reckless Love by Cory Asbury

Before I spoke a word
You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me

Before I took a breath
You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-endin’
Reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down
Fights ’til I’m found
Leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it and I don’t deserve it
Still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending
Reckless love of God…

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THE MIRACLE BROUGHT THE MASSES

What brings us to a large event?  Word of mouth?  Extreme promotions?  Curiosity?  “Seeing is believing”, most people say, so they come.  Today we pay money to hear, see and experience what the masses say we should.  We are all like sheep who follow whatever or whomever is in front of us telling us what tickles our ears and entices us to follow.

In our small passage to day the masses have come for several reasons.  Some people came who had witnessed the raising of Lazarus and are telling everyone about this miracle performed by Jesus.  Some are coming to Jerusalem as a pilgrimage to celebrate Jewish customs and heritage.  Then the last group gathering are the religious leaders who were greatly concerned about what Jesus might do at the feast (John 12:19). At each of the different feasts, the people were in keen expectation, wondering if Jesus would be there and what He would do. It looked as though Jesus was actually seeking to incite a revolution and establish Himself as king, but that was not what He had in mind.  Most in the crowds don’t know heart of Jesus.  They don’t know why He came.  Most don’t know Who He really is.  They only follow because of what they have seen the Son of Man do, fear what He might do along with curiosity.  Seeing is believing after all, so the masses come to see the One who did the miracle. 

Even Jesus beloved disciples didn’t notice all the implications going on at the time.  Everything Jesus said and did fulfill the Scriptures written centuries before, the words of God’s prophets.  They didn’t realize, yet, that Jesus was doing the will of the Father in every detail.

Jerusalem was noisy and lively with many Jewish people coming from the surrounding towns to celebrate The Feast leading to the Passover.   John’s gospel account shifts the scene from a quiet dinner in Bethany to a noisy public parade in Jerusalem. This was the only “public demonstration” that our Lord allowed while He was ministering on earth. His purpose was to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy (Zech. 9:9). The result was a growing animosity on the part of the religious leaders, leading eventually to the crucifixion of the Savior.

John—God’s Love

John 12:12-19, The Message

See How Your King Comes

12-15 The next day the huge crowd that had arrived for the Feast heard that Jesus was entering Jerusalem. They broke off palm branches and went out to meet him. And they cheered:

Hosanna!

Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!

Yes! The King of Israel!

Jesus got a young donkey and rode it, just as the Scripture has it:

No fear, Daughter Zion:
    See how your king comes,
    riding a donkey’s colt.

16 The disciples didn’t notice the fulfillment of many Scriptures at the time, but after Jesus was glorified, they remembered that what was written about him matched what was done to him.

17-19 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, was there giving eyewitness accounts. It was because they had spread the word of this latest God-sign that the crowd swelled to a welcoming parade. The Pharisees took one look and threw up their hands: “It’s out of control. The world’s in a stampede after him.”

WHAT DO WE LEARN?

The resurrection of Lazarus miracle brought the masses to see Jesus.  To them believing was seeing.

The crowds praise Jesus with the words of Scripture, “Blessed is he who comes in God’s Name!”

The Pharisees’ anger grows as the words of evil come from their lips, “Its out of control.  The world’s in a stampede after him.”

God is in control at all times.  Jesus is doing exactly what the Father directs Him to do.

“The disciples didn’t notice the fulfillment of many Scriptures at the time, but after Jesus was glorified, they remembered that what was written about him matched what was done to him.”

We won’t get or understand all that is happening in and to us, around us, and through us until the end.  But this one thing we are assured, God is in control.  Jesus has defeated death.  All who believe will be saved.

Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!

Lord,

Thank you for teaching us your wisdom through this small portion of Your Word.  We will read later how the fickle masses turn their praises to jeering in a few days.  Oh Lord, what you went through to save us breaks our hearts and at the same time fills our souls with joy and thanksgiving.  We don’t have to physically see You to believe in what you have done for us.  We know in our heart of hearts that you are real.  You are real to my heart, mind and soul.  Thank you for loving me that way you do.  Help me to love others like you love and forgave me.

In Jesus Name, Amen.  I believe. 

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